Elder Care: How To Help Your Loved One
Whether it’s a parent, grandparent, or an aunt or uncle, you may be faced with the difficult reality of acknowledging that there’s things they cannot do anymore, despite their efforts. Luckily, they have a relative like you who cares about them to help out.
One of the most important things to consider when first figuring out how to care for an elder loved one is assessing how much help they truly need. They might have some minor to severe mobility issues or chronic mental or physical problems that they’re dealing with.
Start by having a conversation with them and observe them to figure out what they struggle with the most: Can they do household tasks by themselves? Are they forgetful? Are there any immediate risks involved? Would they need round the clock assistance or only occasionally, with specific tasks?
Regardless of what their challenges are, there’s different things you can do and different types of care that can be provided to them based on their situation and their needs. Here, we'll go through some of the things that you can do to assist your elderly loved one.
Provide Home Care
Depending on the wishes of yourself and your loved one, you can either provide care yourself if it’s viable, or arrange for outside services to help such as a health care aide or other senior care. Many elders prefer to have their own space, so providing care in their homes is often ideal for them. If it is absolutely necessary, they may need or want to go to a care facility.
There’s many considerations that go into providing home care, with various things that you can do. Some of these include:
- Making sure they are getting three fresh, nutritious meals a day
- Providing help with daily activities such as household chores, grocery shopping, and personal hygiene
- Giving them attention and companionship to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation from others
- Installing safety features in the home such as handlebars in the shower, ramps or stair climbers, and non-slip flooring
- Reminding them to take their medications on time, or assist them if they are unable to take the medication themselves
Home care is essential because it provides them with the absolute basic needs that are crucial to survival. Once these are taken care of, it can relieve some anxiety that the elder in your life may associate with having to do these tasks. It can also free up much of their time so they can dedicate it to doing the things that truly matter to them.
Exercise or do other fun activities together
Get outside with them, whether it’s hiking, taking a brisk walk, cycling or other activities. You can also give them resources to get some physical activity indoors for times when the weather is bad or they cannot get out for other reasons. This could be as simple as sending them YouTube videos for basic things they can do in their living room.
It is recommended that older adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise every day. If they have some companionship in this routine, they will feel happier and more refreshed. Doing activities together will also give your loved one the motivation to stay active and engaged, something that can often be lost with age.
Many elderly people struggle with isolation, so the more you can involve them in family activities or the community, the healthier they will be. Maybe your elderly loved one enjoys gardening, baking, card games or other activities. Talk to them about what they would like to do and what they’re capable of, and then create a schedule together that works for both of you.
Make sure they are financially set
Your elder loved one might run into financial issues. Perhaps they don’t have a lot of retirement funds that they can rely on or savings that could help them. Maybe they cannot or forget to pay their credit card bills along with other things they might owe. This is a problem that elderly people can often encounter, giving them added stress and anxiety.
If you are able to support your loved one entirely or with a few things financially, that is a wonderful thing. Whether or not you can lend a helping hand in this case, you can still find government and private benefits programs that your elder loved one might be eligible for. In Canada, there’s programs like Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement to offer financial assistance.
One of the best things that you can do for them is to help them find and apply for these kinds of benefits. Elderly people can often struggle with forms, comprehension, and application submission, especially if English is not their first language or they struggle with computers and do not know how to access them online. Even submitting paper forms can sometimes be tedious work for elders, so it is in their best interest to have some assistance with this.
Communicate with them and encourage independence
This is often overlooked, but maintaining the maximum amount of independence possible is a key factor in elder care. Elders need to be as autonomous as possible so they can feel like they are still their own person and don’t have to compromise on their dignity. Little to no independence can have a significant impact on their mental health, possibly causing depression and isolation.
As well, you should make an effort to communicate with them by having engaging conversations and also discussing necessary matters. It makes them feel heard, valued, and is important so that they don’t feel as if they are being a burden to anybody else. You might have good intentions when you make certain decisions for them, but be proactive to ask instead of tell. Listen to their opinions and what they want for themselves and incorporate that into the decision-making process.
How these will improve their livelihoods
These actions can drastically increase the quality of life for the elder who’s close to you. There’s chances they will be more satisfied with most aspects of their life and look forward to living every day the best they can. It will also free up time for them to do the things they love, and they may be encouraged to adventure or try something new.
You personally may even notice that they might be more optimistic, content, and healthier. Taking care of their wellbeing or providing them with the resources to do so will allow them to thrive in their later years and relieve any stressors for a more blissful experience down the road.